Bridges leadership slammed over ‘meth crooks’ attacks

I’m not sure what’s worse for Simon Bridges, his off-putting speech, or his attempt to be tough and controversial over meth house compensation, described as a “massive backflip”. The offending tweet:

Gordon Campbell on Bridges’ ‘meth crooks’ leadership failure

Given that National Party leader Simon Bridges has made consistency and strong leadership the cornerstones of his attacks upon the coalition government, his own massive backflip on the meth compensation issue has been unfortunate, to say the least. Once again, it raises doubts as to whether he – or Judith Collins – is really in control of the National caucus.

To recap. Earlier this year the government’s long time science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman issued a damning report on how Housing NZ had used dodgy, inappropriately low thresholds for meth contamination as a basis for evicting tenants from its properties. Back in June, Bridges publicly accepted that Housing NZ had got it wrong, and that the National government had acted upon bad advice.

At the same time in June that Bridges was apologising for the wrongful basis of the HNZ/National government meth policy, National’s housing spokesperson Judith Collins had been criticising the turnaround in Housing NZ’s approach as a “step too far” that was sending the wrong approach to drug users.

Collins, at least, has remained consistent in her commitment to injustice. On September 20, she attacked the coalition government for paying any compensation to the people affected, regardless of the inaccuracy of the ‘expert’ advice on which HNZ had based its actions.

In going down this track, Collins has been wilfully blurring the lines between meth labs, meth smokers and those unfortunate enough to rent houses where residues – sometimes minute – from drug use by prior inhabitants had been blamed on existing tenants, willy nilly. Some of the tenants affected were elderly. Many were not only entirely innocent of such behaviours, but had been saddled with testing-related costs and furniture disposal and/or had been evicted from houses where the contaminants had been at such low levels as to pose no genuine risk to anyone.

By late on September 20 though, Bridges had changed tack on Twitter, so that he and Collins were singing from the same songbook – and crucially, he was now singing from her songbook. Like Collins, Bridges had begun to decry compensation being paid to quote ‘meth crooks’ unquote.

In fact, the claim by Bridges and Collins of compensation being paid out to proven drug users was quite false. It had already been made clear that people evicted from properties where the contamination level exceeded the new threshold advised by Gluckman would not be liable for compensation.

Collins has a record of being deliberately controversial and ‘tough’, but it’s hard to understand what Bridges was trying to achieve here.

Danyl Mclauchlan is more scathing: The dumbfounding nastiness of Simon Bridges’ ‘meth crooks’ remarks

Let’s take a stroll over to the National Party website and cast our eyes over their core values. They’re the kind of thing you’d expect a conservative, centre-right party to stand for. Equal Opportunity. Personal Responsibility. Strong Families. Limited Government. All good stuff, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I think that’s why I find National’s current position on the meth contamination issue to be so dumbfoundingly nasty.

National leader Simon Bridges’ response to all this is to attack the government for paying compensation to people like Rosemary Rudolf, an 87-year-old grandmother who’d lived in her property for sixty years, or Dianne Revill, a solo mother who has been homeless for two years after being wrongly evicted, separating her from her daughter who went to live with another relative, because they are, in Bridges’ words, ‘meth crooks’ who deserved to be evicted.

There’s been a lot of talk about strength and weakness, recently, with sacking MPs or ministers defined as the criteria for strong political leadership. But selling out your own party’s core values to win a slot in the media cycle, and because you’re afraid of a creature like Judith Collins feels to me like a total failure of leadership; the act of a weak and desperate leader who is playing the fear card because he himself is obviously afraid.

I don’t know if bridges is afraid of the threat of Collins or not, but he seems to have no control over her attacks.

Joining her in an attack looks like a massive blunder.

When speaking Bridges often sounds weak. He has backed this up with weak leadership.

Labour had a succession of failed gambles with post-Clark leaders. It looks like National has continued this trend post-Key & English.

Jacinda Ardern may have a secure career her for another term or two before she moves on the lead the world from the UN, but Neve may be a bit old to wow the media then.

Meth house victims being compensated, unfathomable response from Collins, Bridges

People who were unnecessarily evicted from state houses due to extreme testing for methamphetamine contamination will be apologised to and compensated.

Housing NZ to right meth testing wrong

A report by Housing NZ into its response to methamphetamine contamination shows the organisation accepts its approach was wrong and had far reaching consequences for hundreds of people, Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford said.

“Housing NZ acknowledges that around 800 tenants suffered by either losing their tenancies, losing their possessions, being suspended from the public housing waiting list, negative effects on their credit ratings or, in the worst cases, being made homeless.

“Housing NZ is committed to redressing the hardship these tenants faced. This will be done on a case by case basis and the organisation will look to reimburse costs tenants incurred, and make discretionary grants to cover expenses such as moving costs and furniture replacement.

“They will also receive a formal apology from Housing NZ.

“This is what government accountability looks like. Housing NZ are fronting up, acknowledging they were wrong and putting it right.

“The approach to methamphetamine from 2013 by the government of the day was a moral and fiscal failure. Housing NZ had been instructed by then ministers to operate like a private sector landlord. This led to the wellbeing of tenants being ignored.

“Even as evidence grew that the meth standard was too low, and ministers acknowledged it wasn’t ‘fit for purpose’, the former government continued to demonise its tenants. At any time they could have called for independent advice. Our Government is choosing to do the right thing.

“Under the helm of chief executive Andrew McKenzie, Housing NZ is a very different organisation. It has a new focus on sustaining tenancies, being a compassionate landlord and treating drug addiction as a health issue. This whole sorry saga would not occur under the Housing NZ of today.

“The meth debacle was a systemic failure of government that hurt a lot of people. Our Government is committed to putting this right,” Phil Twyford said.

It was a debacle, and good to see genuine efforts to compensate in part at least.

It is difficult to fathom the National response. Judith Collins:

In Parliament today:

2. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Is it acceptable for Housing New Zealand tenants to smoke methamphetamine in Housing New Zealand houses?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Methamphetamine is, of course, illegal and is doing immense damage to communities across New Zealand. Our Government does not condone the smoking of methamphetamine anywhere; however, the member needs to understand the counterfactual: it is not acceptable for the Government—for any Government—to throw tenants and their children on to the street and make them homeless. We recognise that making people homeless does not solve a tenant’s problems or help people overcome addiction; it just moves the problem to somewhere else and makes it worse for the person involved, their family, their children, the community, and the taxpayer.

Hon Judith Collins: Where meth testing showed residues exceeding previous standards, can this meth have gotten into Housing New Zealand houses any way other than smoking or baking meth?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, but there was no consistent baseline testing done by Housing New Zealand over those years. There is no way of knowing whether the hundreds of people who were made homeless under this policy had any personal responsibility for the contamination of those houses. Frankly, I’m shocked that the member, who used to be a lawyer, would think that that is OK. Is this the modern, compassionate face of the National Party?

Hon Judith Collins: When he said that “800 tenants suffered by … losing their tenancies,” is he saying that these 800 tenants were all wrongfully evicted from Housing New Zealand houses?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It depends what you mean by “wrongfully evicted”. Clearly, some of the 800 people—and I believe many of those people—had their tenancies terminated and were evicted without natural justice, without proper evidence of the case, on the basis of a bogus scientific standard. All of those people—all of the people who were evicted, bar some for whom the standard of contamination was more than the 15 micrograms per 100 centimetres that Sir Peter Gluckman recommended as a sensible standard—were convicted on the basis of a scientific standard that the previous Government allowed to persist for years on the basis of no scientific evidence that exposure to third-hand contamination posed any kind of health risk to anybody

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There are many contradictory reports swirling around on this issue, but one that I’ve seen that makes a lot of sense is where, and I quote, “people were unfairly removed. If that’s the case, they should be compensated, and Housing New Zealand management should answer for it.” That’s exactly what today’s report does, and that quote is from Judith Collins.

Hon Judith Collins: Will people who smoked meth in Housing New Zealand houses now be given $2,000 to $3,000 compensation?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The point of the compensation is to compensate people who wrongly had their tenancies terminated and their possessions destroyed and who, in some cases, were made homeless. Those are the people who will receive a payment under the assistance programme.

Hon Judith Collins: Will people who sold meth in Housing New Zealand houses now be given $2,000 to $3,000 compensation?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No.

I have no idea who Collins is trying to appeal to by highlighting a problem that happened under the National-led government.

Simon Bridges joined in as he barked at a number of passing cars today.

Alleging “compensation for meth crooks” is a fairly crooked attack.

Housing NZ CEO on meth testing

The CEO of Housing NZ Andrew McKenzie is being interviewed on RNZ about meth testing of houses. It has taken a while for him to front up.

Earlier:

See also: